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Phonathon raises funds while teaching students valuable skills

Participants contact 45,000 people a year, including parents, alumni and those who have given in the past

02/28/05

Five nights a week, from 6:30 p.m.-9:00 p.m. in a room next to the campus Health and Wellness Center, you can find 14-15 students diligently calling alumni and friends of the University to ask for their support for the annual campaign fund. The phonathon makes regular calls from September through December and from January through April.

“We attempt to contact about 45,000 people a year,” says Holley Krawiec, phonathon manager. “That includes parents of students, alumni and those who have given in the past.”

Thirty students work for the phonathon. They receive several hours of training and are given guidelines to follow when making the calls. The students are paid and many return year after year to work. This fall the students started working with a new computer-dialing system called SmartCall. The computer selects and dials the number, so there are no longer actual phones at the phonathon.

“The new system makes it much easier to handle all the information we get during the calls,” says Krawiec.

But while the students are helping raise funds for the University, they are also getting something in return.

“The students acquire a lot of great skills working the phonathon,” says Krawiec. “Telephone skills, interviewing skills, communication skills, skills that they will be able to carry over into their professional lives.”

That experience is not lost on local employers. Three companies expressed interest in junior Chris McKinnon, partly because of his phonathon experience.

“The employers know our students can handle themselves professionally and are also able to deal with difficult situations as well as confidential information,” Krawiec explains.

But in addition to helping raise funds and learning new skills, the students also help Xavier’s image.

“Some alumni look forward to speaking to a student and finding out what they’re up to and what the school is doing,” says Dan Cloran, director for the annual fund. “Some older alumni appreciate the call because that may be the only call they get that day. Some people are terrible to our student callers but the students are given tools to ‘laugh’ at the rudeness and learn from that.”

“The calls help reinforce how great a place Xavier is because there are caring and passionate alumni, parents and friends who share this love with the students,” says Cloran.